Saturday, March 17, 2018

Oregon Judge Suspended

Fundamentalist Christians really have a hard time living with the rest of us. I suppose it's no surprise that they work so hard to build their own completely isolated communities in which nothing but explicitly Christian things are ever allowed to intrude. Patheos reported on Thursday that much like what happened to Roy Moore in Alabama, a conservative Christian judge in Oregon has been suspended for refusing to follow the law and perform (civil, it should be noted) same-sex marriages.

Judge Vance Day, the former chair of Oregon’s Republican Party and a conservative Christian who claims his religious beliefs don’t allow him to marry same-sex couples, has been suspended for three years without pay by the Oregon Supreme Court for his refusal to marry same-sex couples. Pacific Northwest News reports:

"The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday took the unusual step of suspending a sitting state court judge — Vance Day of Salem — for three years. The high court found that Day, first appointed in 2011 to the bench in Marion County Circuit Court, committed 'willful misconduct' and made 'willful misstatements' to investigators to cover up the truth. Day acted with prejudice against same-sex couples by deciding he wouldn’t marry them and he instructed his staff to employ a scheme to avoid “public detection” of his plan, the Supreme Court said."

Previously, the Oregon Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability issued a scathing report urging the state Supreme Court to remove Judge Vance Day from the bench. The 48-page report details what it described as a long list of ethical and even criminal missteps it found Day committed. Among the most egregious was the commission’s finding that Day refused to marry same-sex couples and told his office staff to lie about why.

The absolutely most confusing thing about all these stories to me is that we're not talking about religious marriage. We're talking about civil marriage. Nobody is out there forcing churches that don't approve of same-sex marriage to perform ceremonies - and let me tell you, if the government ever started doing anything like that, they'd get a lot of flack from even progressive me.

I suppose it has to do with the belief held by some conservative Christians (the poor oppressed variety, naturally) that there really is no separation of church and state in the Constitution, but that belief is just wrong. A conservative Christian judge who lets a same-sex couple sign a piece of paper meaning they're married in the eyes of the state is not committing a sin. Presumably, to his or her church the marriage is just invalid.

So this is absolutely the right thing for the state of Oregon to be doing. Day can't force everybody else to follow his religion - that's expressly prohibited by constitutional law. If he can't do his job because of his beliefs that's his choice, but he doesn't have a right to keep the job when he is unwilling to fulfill its required duties.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Scientology TV

As many of you probably know, in 1946 L. Ron Hubbard and Jack Parsons performed a magical operation inspired by the (fictional) Moonchild ritual from Aleister Crowley's novel of the same name. Meanwhile, Crowley himself would write to Karl Germer regarding said operation that "Apparently Parsons or Hubbard or somebody is producing a moonchild. I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these louts." As I see it, Crowley was right to be concerned, because as things worked out what the ritual eventually gave birth to was the Church of Scientology. That's a powerful argument right there that it should never be performed again.

Scientology is one of the world's biggest and most famous cults. They're most well-known for hoovering up every spare bit of cash their members come across, going after any and all ex-members who dare to criticize their organization with a vengeance, and threatening to sue people right and left. I might even get a cease-and-desist letter for calling the group a cult on this blog. But I don't use the term lightly. Any new religious movement that requires the investment of the amount of money that Scientology does, and/or harasses members who try to leave like Scientology does, really does deserve that epithet.

Anyway, for those of you who were anxiously waiting for Scientology to get with the times and create its own television network (and, yeah, that's basically nobody), you're in luck. The Church of Scientology is in fact starting its own television network on DIRECTV AppleTV, Roku, FireTV, iTunes, and Google Play. But a number of critics have pointed out that starting up a television network now might not be the best thing for the church to be doing.

Given the organization's decades-long controversies, perhaps there's no great time for it to expand it media platform. But right now does feel particularly odd. For starters, the February mass murder in Parkland, Florida brought a deluge of attention to another niche broadcaster — NRATV — and a wave of threatened boycotts against its platform, Amazon. On Twitter Monday morning, users were already expressing surprise at DirectTV, and saying how to contact the network directly. Then there's the increased scrutiny the organization has faced in recent years, thanks in no small part to its high profile defectors. In 2015, filmmaker Alex Gibney's documentary series "Going Clear" made a splash on HBO, and garnered three Emmy awards. The same year, "King of Queens" star Leah Remini released the bestselling "Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology." She followed up with her own documentary series to "give a voice to victims of the Church of Scientology despite public attempts to discredit them."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Psychic Animals Here to Stay

A few years ago, World Cup Soccer went wild for "psychic animals" that seemed to possess the ability to predict the outcomes of matches. The animals would be offered two bowls or containers of food, one bearing the flag of each country. Then the one they selected would be deemed the winner - and a few of those animals proved quite accurate. This year, a Russian cat named Achilles has been selected ahead of the 2018 World Cup tournament as its official "animal psychic."

Achilles, a white-furred deaf cat who lives at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, has been selected to predict the 2018 FIFA World Cup winners.

The male clairvoyant cat was also picked as the official oracle to forecast the traditional pre-match predictions for last year’s Confederations Cup, where he correctly predicted three of the four-match outcomes, reported Russian News Agency Tass.

Hermitage cats press secretary, Maria Khaltunen, claims the feline was chosen for the role because he demonstrated "capabilities for choice, analysis and unusual behavior.” In addition, Achilles is deaf, which means he will not be easily distracted by surrounding noises.

For the 2017 Confederations Cup, the white cat was made to choose between two bowls of food, each with a different country’s flag. “This decision has been made, the papers have been signed,” Khaltunen told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency on Monday.

According to Khaltunen, Achilles will receive a fan identification card (otherwise known as a fan passport). He will also go down in history as the only animal to have attained the prestigious documentation. "Animals are not given [Fan IDs,] as there are questions concerning photos," Khaltunen said.

Now here's where this gets interesting. The main skeptic claim about psychic animals is that what's really is going on is that hundreds of people have animals doing this, and simply by chance some of them will turn out to be right. Over time, this creates a sort of "sifting process" where the only animals left in the pool by the end of the tournament are the ones that chose correctly. So the most successful animals are not psychic, just lucky.

But when you pick an "official" psychic animal ahead of time, that whole dynamic changes. Since one of the basic tenets of probability theory is that each subsequent pick in cases like this should be entirely independent of past picks. So if this is all due to chance, the odds that Achilles will be able to pick successful matches again should be pretty low. If he's successful this time around as well, I would say that warrants further paranormal investigation.

Rupert Sheldrake has provided some evidence of rudimentary psychic abilities in animals, and has proposed his morphic resonance hypothesis to explain it. If Achilles can repeat his performance this year, with all the experimental variables declared ahead of time, it means that at the very least what is going on is probably not sheer luck.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mastering the Thirty Aires

This week I'm skipping my usual magick post, but I have a good reason. I'm focusing on putting the final touches on my manuscript for Mastering the Thirty Aires so I can hopefully get it off to Pendraig by the end of this week. That doesn't mean it will be out right away or anything like that - the editing and book production process generally takes months to get through. But it's a big step that I've been working on getting to for a long time now. It turn out out to be harder to write than the last two put together.

Mastering the Thirty Aires approaches the system of the Aires or Aethyrs from the original Dee perspective - as a system of political magick designed to influence the general affairs of the various portions of the world. It also touches on more modern practices like "rising on the planes" and so forth, but more from the perspective of giving you the information you need to do the work yourself rather than delving into detailed analysis that you can find in many other books. As with the first two installments in the series, it will include a detailed ritual template that you can use to construct your rituals without a bunch of guesswork. Also, it will touch on some of the basics of zodiacal magick in the context of the Enochian system of the Aires.

So I'm really looking forward to making this new book available, and completing my trilogy of Enochian books. I know that some of you have been waiting a long time for this to be released, and I hope that you will all find it worth the wait.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Haunted Alexa

I have never been a fan of voice interfaces. For all that they let you talk to your computer like on Star Trek or something, there are all sorts of issues that science fiction never really addresses. Let's say you're using a voice interface to run your phone or your smart glasses or really any other piece of tech in public. I don't know about you, but I'm not even remotely interested in having everybody around me know my business. In a group of people it often is weirdly disruptive, too, because everybody around you is trying to figure out who you're talking to and often get irritated when they realize you're talking to literally nobody in the room. There's a reason that the term "glasshole" was invented not long after the beta release of Google Glass - somebody who sits there and talks incessantly to their smart glasses.

Amazon's Alexa is a similar technology. I suppose it's more private to talk to a home speaker than it is to your glasses or your phone when you're out in public, but the thing still has to pay attention to every single thing you say in order to work. Does anybody really believe Amazon isn't logging all that data and selling it to advertisers so they can harrass you with better targeted ads? The other problem with these "Internet-of-things" systems is that they can be hacked or get viruses. Or maybe even paranormal infestations, which is what brings this story into Augoeides territory. Alexa has apparently been randomly laughing at people - a creepy laugh, not a funny one - and nobody knows why.

As Amazon Echo Dot owner Gavin Hightower was heading to bed the other week, he encountered a disturbing Alexa bug. For no apparent reason, the device uttered a “very loud and creepy laugh.” “There’s a good chance I’m getting murdered tonight,” Hightower tweeted after the incident.

Hightower isn’t alone: Numerous Echo device owners have reported their Alexas laughing spontaneously, unprovoked by their wake word (“Alexa”) or any other command. For other users, it’s more than just laughter. Some report their Alexa devices failing to fulfill their spoken requests, performing random other actions instead, and then capping it off with a guffaw.

Now granted, it's probably a bug or some new virus. It almost certainly isn't "skynet" or any of that intelligent AI nonsense - we're still many years away from making anything like that work, and just for reference about the same number of years away that people were saying we were twenty years ago. It also is true that if you were going to sit down and build a virus that would infect the Alexa network, this would be a pretty funny to do, especially if it only sends out the laughs intermittantly enough that the problem is hard to track down and debug. On the other hand, if you could do something like this by conjuring a spirit, wouldn't that be extra-fun?

Amazon has announced today that they have apparently fixed the problem by updating the software. But what if they really just had a wizard come in and do a big exorcism over their whole data center? Integrating magick with technology is usually fairly difficult, but it also is true that as Internet services become more centralized the number of targets you have to hit to get an effect goes down by a lot. If you can make it work, the applications are endless.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Gun Commitment Ceremony

So it's finally happened, folks. Conservatives warned us that same-sex marriage was a slippy slope to letting people marry their toasters, and I didn't believe them. But in Pennsylvania last week, a bunch of men (wearing pink robes and tiaras, I might add) married their guns. Even though the gun debate involves some pretty serious issues, this reminds me so much of Stephen Colbert "sharing his life with a gun named Sweetness" that I have to laugh.

With state police and a smattering of protesters standing watch outside the church, brides clad in white and grooms in dark suits brought dozens of unloaded AR-15s into World Peace and Unification Sanctuary for a religious event that doubled as an advertisement for the Second Amendment.

The church, which has a worldwide following, believes the AR-15 symbolizes the “rod of iron” in the book of Revelation, and encouraged couples to bring the weapons. An AR-15 was used in the Florida high school massacre on Feb. 14.

The Rev. Sean Moon, who leads the church, prayed for “a kingdom of peace police and peace militia where the citizens, through the right given to them by almighty God to keep and bear arms, will be able to protect one another and protect human flourishing.”

Moon is the son of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a self-proclaimed messiah who founded the Unification Church, which critics regard as a cult. The younger Moon’s congregation is a breakaway faction of the Unification Church, which had distanced itself from Wednesday’s event.

Because of course it is. These cults have more schisms than... well, they have a lot of them. At any rate, yes, I realize I'm being a little flippant here. These guys didn't actually marry their guns. They just dressed up in pink robes and tiaras and took wedding vows while holding their AR-15's. So it's totally different, right? Still, the pink robes and tiaras look pretty gay. I wonder if that was deliberate on their part, or some aspect of their religion that just happens to look like something you might see at a (really bad) drag show.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Where Do They Get This Stuff?

Sometimes I wonder if I should just go all-out and start posting random conspiracy nonsense to get my social media clicks up. The trouble is that I can sit down and make up the most outrageous thing I can think of, and it will still be tame compared to most of what's out there. I archived a couple of these two weeks ago, and am just getting around to them now. I thought about doing them in two separate posts, but basically they suffer from exactly the same problem and really form more of a set.

This first one is from Alex Jones and InfoWars. I know I said awhile back that I was probably going to lay off Alex Jones because most of his stuff is dumber and more partisan than it is funny, but... well... just go ahead and read it for yourself. And try not to laugh - I dare you.

Infowars leader and crackpot conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, contributing to the second phase of the ongoing right-wing smear campaign against the artist who painted Barack Obama’s presidential portrait, claimed that the artist purposefully painted an image of sperm on Obama’s face to fulfill part of a globalist agenda to “have everything be a ritual of abomination.”

Today on Infowars, Jones claimed the artist Kehinde Wiley, who was hired to paint Obama, “is obsessed with sperm” and that “all of his paintings have sperm swimming all over everything.” For some reason, Jones also felt the need to clarify that the alleged sperm shape in question was a “GMO sperm” that was “fully formed.”

“You say, ‘But, it doesn’t make sense, it’s so degenerate.’ It’s a religion of degeneracy. It’s what globalism is. It’s what Satanism is,” Jones said. “So there you go, President Obama covered in sperm in new national portrait, and it’s all part of the joke in your face, because they don’t want upright strength. They want to have everything be a ritual of abomination.”

Repeat after me - finance douchebags are not occultists. They just aren't. And even if there were, let's say that the vaguely sperm-shaped (or really, comma-shaped) space in Obama's presidential portrait is really supposed to be sperm. Let's even say it really is supposed to be "fully-formed GMO" sperm (whatever the heck that is). So what? That's still not occultism, it's not magick, and it's not even a ritual. Basically, all this argument does is freak out people who know nothing about how magick works. Any real occultist knows better.